Articles Posted in Divorce

People are waiting longer to get married. Statistics show that the average age of Maryland men marrying for the first time is roughly 30 and, for Maryland women, 29. That means that, whether you’re talking about a first marriage or a subsequent marriage, the odds are greater than ever that the spouses are entering the marriage with significant wealth. For many spouses-to-be, one important financial goal is to ensure that the assets they want to share are shared and the ones they want to keep separate stay separate. Proper planning is vital in this area because, as a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer will tell you, a failure to handle these assets properly could result in a non-marital asset unintentionally switching to marital status in the eyes of the law.

A recent Montgomery County divorce case shows this concept in action.

In terms of determining which assets were marital and which were non-marital, the spouses agreed about their home, the cars, and the checking accounts, but they did not agree about certain annuity accounts.

Divorce is a big transition in the lives of many people. So is retirement. A significant number of people entering retirement have to deal with divorce-related financial obligations, including alimony. Whether you are the spouse who’s receiving alimony or the spouse who’s retiring, a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer can help you best protect yourself and your financial needs.

K.R. was one of these retiring Marylanders. He and his wife divorced in 2014 after 39 years of marriage. The spouses worked out a property settlement agreement. With regard to alimony, the agreement said that the husband would pay the wife $10,000 per month. It also said that the alimony obligation would reduce to “36.36% of the husband’s earned income” starting in 2019… unless the alimony obligation was “otherwise terminated or modified by a court.”

In 2020, the husband went back to court to extinguish his alimony obligation. He argued in his motion that he’d retired due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no longer earned any income. The court concluded that, although the husband had no income, he had over $1 million in assets, and refused to terminate alimony, but did reduce the sum from $10,000 per month to $4,000 per month.

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Late last year, Washingtonian covered a trend regarding alimony that’s on the rise in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia: divorces where higher-earning wives leave owing alimony to their husbands. The piece is a useful reminder that anyone (husband or wife) can potentially be ordered to pay alimony in Maryland and that ways (such as prenuptial agreements) exist to help avoid part or all of the horror of an unexpectedly unfavorable divorce judgment. Whether you’re negotiating a prenup or litigating alimony, make sure you have a knowledgeable Maryland family law lawyer on your side to fight for a fair outcome.

Many of the ex-wives in the Washingtonian piece expressed deep anger and resentment about paying alimony to ex-husbands who they viewed as insufficiently industrious. One wife described her husband as someone whom she “begged” to find a job, always without success. Another expressed resentment about owing alimony from a marriage where she allegedly earned the bulk of the family’s income and also bore the lion’s share of responsibility for domestic tasks.

One wife complained, “It’s not just as simple as saying, ‘Because men pay it, women should pay it, too.'”

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A knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer can help your case in countless ways. Sometimes, those ways involve in-depth knowledge of the law or the effective use of the pre-trial discovery processes to get key evidence. Other times, a skilled divorce lawyer can help by managing a client’s expectations and giving them strong, unflinching advice about what sort of things can help your case… and which ones almost certainly won’t.

As an example, let’s look at the divorce case of A.T., an Upper Marlboro man whose wife filed for divorce the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2018.

The husband, in response, “did not file an answer, counter complaint, or any pleading requesting relief from the court.”

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Family-owned businesses are a staple of the American commercial landscape. Many of these businesses are passed down across multiple generations. Sometimes, though, the family business in question is your spouse’s, not yours. When that happens and you’re divorcing, some or all of that business may be a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Getting a truly just outcome in that scenario means getting a proper determination of both the business’s status (as marital) and its value. A skilled Maryland divorce lawyer can help go about obtaining that just and appropriate outcome.

A recent example of this kind of divorce case comes to us from Baltimore County. The husband’s parents were successful businesspeople, having run a seafood market and restaurant west of Baltimore since 1963.

The husband and wife married in 2004. In 2005, the husband (“Eric”) and his father (“Bill”) formed a corporation to operate the market and restaurant. Initially, Eric owned 25% of the shares and Bill owned 75%. In January 2006, Bill transferred his shares to Eric and Eric’s sister. That left Eric with 75% ownership and the sister with 25%.

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“Lawyers often joke that we went to law school because we aren’t good at or don’t like math,” quipped a Maryland Court of Special Appeals judge recently. In a similar vein, a student in a law school seminar once interrupted the instructor who was laying out a math-intensive hypothetical. “Pardon me, Professor, but… we don’t do math. If we did, we wouldn’t be here.” Similar to the Court of Special Appeals Judge’s observation, the student was implying that he and his classmates arrived at law school rather than medical school or engineering school solely as a result of their poor math skills or strong dislike of math. In seriousness, though, math and law can — and do — intersect frequently, especially in divorce cases involving the division of marital assets. When you are in a divorce case where that is a significant issue, your outcome can often be enhanced by having on your side a skilled Maryland divorce lawyer (who may or may not love math.)

The case that spawned the Court of Special Appeals’ observation about math was a recent divorce dispute about retirement assets. The judgment in that divorce action stated that the “parties shall equalize their retirement assets.” To do that, the court instructed the wife to roll over $303,388 from her retirement to the husband’s retirement.

The problem was, as the appeals court put it, “something didn’t add up,” and fortunately for the wife, her legal team spotted it and argued it in her motion to enforce the judgment. Specifically, the wife’s counsel found the presence of a typographical error and deduced that a transfer of $303,388 would not equalize the spouses’ assets. To achieve an equal split, the wife argued, the correct sum should have been $40,000 less, or $263,388.

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In many walks of life, people say that “timing is everything.” In civil lawsuits, timing isn’t everything but it definitely is a very important thing. That’s especially true in divorce cases. When it comes to things like alimony and monetary awards, the date used for evaluating the spouse’s assets is key. Sometimes, even just a difference of only a few months can alter the outcome by thousands of dollars. As with any essential detail of your divorce case, a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer can help you identify the correct date and, in the process, get you a fair outcome.

Maryland law requires a trial court, before imposing a monetary award as part of a divorce, to engage in the three steps. First, the judge must identify what property is the husband’s, what is the wife’s, and what is marital. Second, the trial court must decide the value of the marital property. Finally, if the judge determines that simply dividing the marital assets “according to title” would yield an unfair result, then the judge adds a monetary award to the spouse who received the lesser group of titled marital assets.

In S.L. and T.L.’s divorce case, the trial court in Prince George’s County went through all those required processes. The court determined that, of the couple’s $1.24 million in assets, $553,000 was titled in the husband’s name, $86,000 was in the wife’s name, and $602,000 was titled in the spouses’ names jointly. After subtracting the couple’s marital debt, the judge ultimately awarded the wife a monetary award of $50,000.

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California was the very first state in the U.S. to recognize “no-fault” divorce, doing so in 1970. Today, all states recognize no-fault divorce but some, including Maryland, give you the option of seeking a no-fault divorce or an at-fault divorce. Since Maryland allows both kinds of divorce actions, you may ask yourself, “Which one is better for me?” For answers to that and all other essential divorce questions, get in touch with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer who can assess your specific facts and give the advice you need for your specific situations.

For the last eight years, fans of reality TV on the TLC network have followed the relationships of dozens of couples on “90 Day Fiance.” While viewers presumably hope for true love for each of the lovebird pairs, not all the couples’ stories end with a “happily ever after.” Indeed, one of the “90 Day Fiance” couples is currently going through the divorce process here in Maryland.

The pair appeared on the show in 2015 when the husband was 58 and the wife was 19. Six years later, the husband filed for divorce, asserting that the wife committed adultery.

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For many couples, separation agreements are very useful tools. If you go that route, it’s important to make sure that your separation agreement is sufficiently detailed in all areas. For example, with alimony, it’s not enough to say “how much” and “for how long,” but also to address things like “when may the supporting spouse seek modification?” An experienced Maryland divorce lawyer can help you with negotiating and executing an agreement that is fair, complete, and clear.

Of course, even once you’ve done that, there may be pitfalls. For example, what happens if your spouse, who owes you alimony, experiences a non-permanent downturn in his income? Often, a temporary dip in income is not enough to lead to a reduction in your alimony but it depends on the exact wording of your separation agreement. A knowledgeable legal advocate can be essential in protecting your right to receive alimony.

Take, for example, the alimony case of C.T., a successful anesthesiologist, and his wife, R.L. They separated in 2015 and, three years later, worked out a separation agreement. That document called for the husband to pay alimony of $6,000 per month for 47 months, and then pay a lesser sum for the next 88 months.

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Here in Maryland, a prenuptial agreement can be a very beneficial thing for both you and your future spouse. Some people consider a prenuptial agreement to be the cynical ploy of someone who’s already planning a divorce before the wedding has even occurred, but that is rarely the reality. A well-written and fairly negotiated prenuptial agreement can give you confidence that you and your spouse will be in control, rather than a court, if the marriage eventually ends. Making sure that both you and your spouse are working with knowledgeable Maryland prenuptial agreement lawyers can go a long way in ensuring you get something that is fair, mutually agreeable, and largely safe from a subsequent legal attack.

Prenuptial agreements have been in the news a lot lately. In December, music mogul Dr. Dre finalized his divorce. During that litigation, the hip-hop icon sought to enforce a prenuptial agreement. The wife strongly opposed, arguing that she signed the agreement under duress.

Four months earlier, another celebrity prenuptial agreement dispute came to a close. Singer and talk-show host Kelly Clarkson successfully argued for the enforcement of the prenuptial agreement that she and her husband signed. News reports generally did not indicate why the husband thought the prenup was invalid.

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